12oz Exclusive Interview: Caleb Neelon Pt 1 - Painting Outside and In
This article was posted by Daniel Feral 1 year, 2 months, 3 weeks, 4 days, 19 hours, 48 minutes ago.
Artist Caleb Neelon, co-author of The History of American Graffiti and many other books on graffiti, has a solo show called Victory Garden up now just outside of Boston. In the nineties, he went by the tag Sonik and wrote the text for the later influential issues of 12ozProphet, when it was still a magazine.
This is the first of a two-part interview with him. Caleb is one of my top favorite “writers” in both meanings of the word. This part will be about him as an artist and the second about him as an author. As an artist he has a primitive, child-like style that is raw and brave, developed in the nineties within a sub-culture of slick letterforms and tight illustration. As an author he is a precise and visionary word-craftsman, who can channel the idiosyncratic language, feelings and personality of whoever he is working with or the subject he is researching. He has painted so many great pieces with so many great artists and written so many great books, it’s a breathtaking landscape of images and words. This interview is a good introduction if you don’t know much about him yet.
As a kid, Caleb became fascinated with graffiti in elementary school, which continued through his high school years. Some early influences were the walls in the projects behind his elementary school; the crushed Berlin wall as it was being torn down, which he saw during a trip to Berlin in 1990; and also many random trips to NYC during high school.
During his artistic development, he was lucky to have parents that supported all of his creative interests. They were both creative, took him to museums and let him go to the library alone anytime, because it was just a few blocks away. It was like his playground. His mother wrote poetry and did photography, while his father studied history and even began writing history books in his retirement. Caleb loved to roam through the ancient art and folk art sections at the museums, and pour over art books discovering strange primitive arts that fascinated and inspired him. Between the museums and the library there were thousands of years of art to study and draw from.
In terms of graffiti though, things really clicked during his first year of college at New York University from 1994-95. Cost and Revs were still up everywhere with their raw and gritty wheat pastes, stickers, rollers and bolted-up canvases. Unlike today, these materials and methods had not been utilized to this extent by hardcore writers before. These pieces were frequently idiosyncratic, primitive, goofy and ugly by the standards of a typical writer. They pushed the boundaries of what graffiti could be. This kind of work appealed to Caleb and inspired him to find a voice that was unique for him and also within the graffiti community.
Interview and pictures continue on page 2…
- Caleb Neelon,
- Daniel Feral,
- The History of American Graffiti,
- Delusional: The Story of the Jonathan Levine Gallery,
- Allen Benedikt,
- 12ozProphet Magazine,
- Sao Paulo,
- Herbert Baglione,
- Cost and Revs,
- revs cost,
- Revs and Cost,
- Cost KRT,
- Caleb Neelon's Book of Awesome,
- Steve Espo Powers,
- Brown University,
- Rhode Island,
- New York University,
- Street Art,
- John Fekner,
© Daniel Feral & 12ozProphet - Saturday February 25, 2012 at 01:00 PM